Knicks coach Derek Fisher reflects on LeBron’s decision, while still waiting for Carmelo Anthony to make his

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LAS VEGAS — Derek Fisher made his head coaching debut for the Knicks on Friday, leading the team’s somewhat stacked Summer League squad to a 76-64 victory over the Mavericks.

“There was definitely some emotion coming into the building today, and this morning, as I started to really think about what this meant,” Fisher said. “And that this would be the first time that I got a chance to actually coach my team in a game situation. The players made me look probably better than I am right now, but the same way that I ask them to work hard and continue to do the things they need to do to get better, that’s what I do. And it was a lot of fun today.”

The first game of the day in Las Vegas was merely a backdrop, however, for the avalanche of free agent news that continues to roll in now that the biggest piece to the puzzle has fallen into place.

LeBron James going to the Cavaliers set off a flurry of other moves, but his leaving Miami is likely to have the greatest impact on shifting the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. Fisher reflected on that decision, while still awaiting word on whether or not his own marquee free agent in Carmelo Anthony will choose to be back with the Knicks next season.

“I wasn’t necessarily surprised,” Fisher said of James returning to Cleveland. “It appeared that he was seriously considering it for some days now. So, not so much of a surprise. He appears to be a smart young man, and has always thought of himself as more than just a basketball player. From that standpoint, it looks like things are going to work out, and I’m happy for him and his family if that’s what he truly wants.”

Fisher may not be similarly happy for Anthony if he too should leave, but supports his right to play wherever he chooses.

“I think everyone from our perspective has expressed, directly and indirectly, how we feel about having Carmelo back here and what that would mean,” Fisher said. “But he’s an adult. He’s allowed to make decisions he feels like are best for him and for his family. Whatever decision that is, we’ll respect it, and we’ll have to continue to do what the New York Knicks have to do. But hopefully we’ll hear something soon, so that we can move forward in terms of our business.”

For now, that business involves getting acclimated to his new role as coach, and beginning to work toward putting a system in place that will give New York the best chance to approach the status of contender in the immediate future. While James leaving certainly shifts the focus of power, his new team may not be as well-equipped to instantly compete for a title. But long before LeBron left Miami, Fisher signed up for this gig with the belief that the Knicks could do some damage in the East — a possibility that would seem all the more plausible with Anthony firmly in place.

“I don’t’ know if it’s just about LeBron going to Cleveland,” Fisher said. “I’ve always had the view, before even taking this job, that we would have a chance to compete in the Eastern Conference. I know a lot of people think that we need to change players and we have some guys that can’t play any more, et cetera. That’s just not my belief.”

“We expect to be able to compete in the Eastern Conference,” Fisher said. “Obviously, having Carmelo would make that easier.”

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.